Pediatricians say the mental health crisis among kids has become a national emergency

This story contains the topic of suicide.

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (en español: 1-888-628-9454; deaf and hard of hearing: 1-800-799- 4889) or the Crisis text line by texting HOME to 741741.

A coalition of the country’s leading pediatric health experts has issued an urgent warning that the mental health crisis among children is so dire it has become a national emergency.

The statement was prepared by the American Academy of Pediatrics, the Children’s Hospital Association and the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, which together represent more than 77,000 physicians and 200 children’s hospitals.

In a letter released Tuesday, the groups say the number of mental health problems among children has been steadily rising over the past decade. But the coronavirus pandemic, as well as the issue of racial inequality, they write, has exacerbated the challenges.

“This worsening crisis in the mental health of children and adolescents is inextricably linked to the stress caused by COVID-19 and the ongoing struggle for racial justice and represents an acceleration of trends observed before 2020,” the statement from the pediatrician said. groups.

When it comes to suicide in particular, the groups point to data showing that in 2018, suicide was the second leading cause of death for people between the ages of 10 and 24.

Teenage girls are especially at risk. From February to March this year, emergency room visits for suspected suicide attempts increased by 51% for girls ages 12 to 17, compared with the same period in 2019, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Overall, the data shows that in 2020, the percentage of emergency room visits for emergency mental health care increased by 24% for children aged 5-11 and by 31% for children aged 12-17, compared to 2019.

“Young people have endured so much during this pandemic and while much attention is often paid to the impact on physical health, we cannot overlook the escalating mental health crisis our patients are facing,” said the president of the hospital. American Academy of Pediatrics, Dr. Lee Savio. Beers, said in a statement.

The crisis affects children of color even more

The statement from the pediatric groups notes that the disruptions experienced by children and families during the pandemic have disproportionately affected children of color.

A recent study in the journal Pediatrics found that 140,000 children have lost a parent or grandparent caregiver to COVID-19. A majority of those children were children of color.

The study found that, compared to white children, Native American children were 4.5 times more likely to lose a primary caregiver. Black children were 2.4 times more likely, and Hispanic children almost twice as likely.

“We care for young people with high levels of depression, anxiety, trauma, loneliness and suicidality that will have lasting effects on them, their families, their communities and all of our future,” said Dr. Gabrielle Carlson, president of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry.

Pediatric leaders urge policymakers to invest in telemedicine and mental health in schools

The statement calls on policymakers at the local and federal levels to fund and improve child mental health care when it comes to screening, diagnosis and treatment. Access to telemedicine and mental health in schools should be a priority, the letter says. The groups also want to take up the challenge of children with a shortage of beds in the emergency room.

The Biden administration announced plans in August to invest nearly $85 million in funding for mental health awareness, training and treatment for children.

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